Lightning strikes 6-story statue of Jesus

MONROE, Ohio (AP) - A six-story-tall statue of Jesus Christ with
his arms raised along a highway was struck by lightning in a
thunderstorm Monday night and burned to the ground, police said.
The "King of Kings" statue, one of southwest Ohio's most
familiar landmarks, had stood since 2004 at the evangelical Solid
Rock Church along Interstate 75 in Monroe, just north of
The lightning strike set the statue ablaze around 11:15 p.m.,
Monroe police dispatchers said.
The sculpture, 62 feet tall and 40 feet wide at the base, showed
Jesus from the torso up and was nicknamed Touchdown Jesus because
of the way the arms were raised, similar to a referee signaling a
touchdown. It was made of plastic foam and fiberglass over a steel
frame, which is all that remained early Tuesday.
The fire spread from the statue to an adjacent amphitheater but
was confined to the attic area, and no one was injured, police
Chief Mark Neu said. The fire department would release a monetary
damage estimate Tuesday, he said.
Travelers on Interstate 75 often were startled to come upon the
huge statue by the roadside, but many said America needs more
symbols like it. So many people stopped at the church campus that
church officials had to build a walkway to accommodate them.
The 4,000-member, nondenominational church was founded by former
horse trader Lawrence Bishop and his wife. Bishop said in 2004 he
was trying to help people, not impress them, with the statue. He
said his wife proposed the Jesus figure as a beacon of hope and
salvation, and they spent about $250,000 to finance it.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)